I had a pair of Diesel distressed jeans that travelled with me to India a few years ago. I loved them so much that I’d wear them anywhere; I used to love the long kurta look with those jeans. But one day, when I gave them in for a wash in the village where I was staying, when they came back I noticed that all the holes had been patched up. They thought I had been wearing the jeans with long kurtas only out of embarrassment, or because I couldn’t afford a new pair. This got me thinking about the history of torn jeans.

As a kid growing up in the US, denims were everywhere. From Gitano and Sasson jeans to Levi’s 501s and trucker jackets, it seemed every look had a designated denim tie-in. So when the hard rock/heavy metal scene mainstreamed towards the late ‘80’s, bedazzling had met its match. Till then, most of the time, ripped jeans were a sign of them being worn out. You know, the more you wore them, the more they aged and the more they aged, the more likely they were to tear. I remember as a kid, wearing over-worn jeans meant you didn’t have the financial resources to buy a new pair. It never dawned on me then, but perhaps that explains the ridiculous number of jeans shorts folks wore back then. It was better to cut them up, if some of the denim was still good and usable. Thus, when the music scene made the ripped look `cool’, all of a sudden the classist division between those who could afford new jeans and those who wore torn ones disappeared, and a fashion trend was born. This continued into the ‘90’s, with the grunge rock scene (it may have killed the heavy metal craze and the big hair, but it definitely energised the ripped jeans movement).

But as tastes changed, so did denim. No longer were ripped jeans a sign of aging or self-sabotage. Denim designers were finding clever, unique and stylistic ways to bring the `distressed’ look to their jeans. Distressed differed from ripped, in that the jeans weren’t ripped but artificially given a vintage feel, worn-out and torn by the manufacturer. It was a lot of hard work, with processes like fading, enzyme washing, micro sanding and sandblasting involved. That trend lasted an entire decade.

It seems that when the music and fashion scene began going low decibel, so did the demand for ripped jeans. That was until around 2010, when ‘90’s nostalgia came roaring back. Ripped jeans started making a slow comeback, but with one big difference – the deliberate aging part seemed to have been removed when making these jeans with holes. The look now is of someone who has bought a pair of jeans and has then cut holes around the knee and above, with a rusted pair of scissors.

So, how do ripped jeans work for men? My advice is to stay away entirely, unless you are one of those who can carry off a thigh and calf hugging pair of jeans. If you insist on wearing them, here are some tips;

  • Nothing spells dress down casual more than a pair of ripped jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers. Remember, if your goal is to make denim your centerpiece, don’t overaccessorise.
  • Swap the T-shirt for a crisp white button-down shirt with a V-neck sweater or plaid jacket, and the sneakers for a smart pair of brogues and you’ve found a way class up a casual look.
  • Just remember that ripped/distressed jeans are not everyone’s cup of tea. There’s definitely a style attached to the look, so be sure to carry yourself with confidence when you opt for it. You don’t need more than a couple of pairs, as your regular denims will eventually become vintage in feel and, more than likely, will begin tearing on their own.
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